Micro review: in Plays Well With Others, Gurganus has a great, somewhat lyrical style that propels the tapestry of vignettes that comprise this novel; that said, he tips his narrative hand in the first 30 pages and you spend the next 450 pages playing a sort of emotional defense.
A few miscellaneous points:
(1) RE: “vignettes” (v.s.): it took me a while to see how the different scenes fit together into a novelistic arc. It isn’t that the vignettes are unrelated or disconnected (viz. they’re unified by narrator and (for the most part) by place) just that a few feel like non-sequiturs.
(2) RE: “emotional defense” (v.s.): spending the first section relating to us the final comic catastrophe of one beloved friend dying of HIV means one (and only one thing) when followed by a deep flashback: it means you’re going to spend hundreds of pages telling us in fine-grained detail the life stories that might otherwise be relayed in a hundred. And you drag it out and fill it with detail because you want me to get emotionally invested in this motley group that we already know is going to die, one by one.
(3) But Gurganus does have a good style, and it comes across here pretty strongly.